Religion in Canada

Sikhism in Canada

Sikhism is a monotheistic faith. Sikhs believe that the one, living God created the universe, sustains it and, in the end, will destroy it. A Sikh is a disciple of God, but more particularly, one who follows the teachings of the 10 Sikh gurus, (teachers), as written in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Scriptures).

The Sikh religion was founded in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It was developed by the 9 gurus who followed him, until the last of the 10, Guru Arjan Dev, compiled all the Scriptures written by his predecessors into one definitive work and named it his successor, calling it Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the one, holy, teaching book of Scripture.

The basic beliefs of the Sikhs, as set out by the first guru, Nanak Dev, are the following:

There is only one God.

His name is Truth.

He is the Creator.

He is without fear.

He is without hate.

He is immortal.

He is beyond birth and death.

He is self-existent.

Sikhism rejects idol worship; the caste system, which still survives in India ; and religious rituals. It regards men and women as equals and advocates tolerance of all religions. For the most part, Sikhs reject religious practices centred in the concepts of sacrament and ritual, pilgrimage and fasting. Worship is confined to prayer, reading of Scriptures, singing of hymns and meditation. Sikhs believe that the soul is eternal and subject to a continual cycle of birth, death and reincarnation until liberated from the mortal cycle and reunited with God.

The Sikh temple is the gurdwara ("gateway to the guru"). Every sizable community of Sikhs will have a gurdwara. Private homes may also have a room or place set aside as a gurdwara. In Canada, temples built by larger Sikh communities are likely to be patterned on traditional Indian Sikh architecture, though Sikhs have converted churches of Christian denominations to use as temples. The temple is both a place of worship and a community centre.

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Scripture) is kept in a central place on a raised platform under a canopy. Worshippers sit on carpets (chairs are not permitted) - men on one side, women on the other - to listen to readings and hymns. ( Note: In some Canadian Sikh congregations, majority groups have permitted tables and chairs to be placed in the gurdwara. This practice is considered by other, more traditional Sikhs a sacrilegious practice or a sign of weakening of the faith. It has resulted in serious legal disputes and in violence.)

There are approximately 278,410 Sikhs in Canada according to Stats Canada. Normally, in Canada, group gatherings for worship services are on weekends. There is no professional priesthood in Sikhism. Every temple has a Sangat , or governing council of holy men, which directs the affairs of the temple. The council members are elected by the congregation. Women do not normally take part.

Sikh religious holidays are observed according to the Nanakshahi calendar, named after the first Guru, Nanak Dev Ji. The years of the calendar start with the year of his birth, 1469 CE. Start days for each of the 12 Sikh months correspond to the Gregorian calendar.

Males who have been baptized and consider themselves khalsa uphold the following dress requirements:

Kesa or kesh (hair): For khalsa, the hair must remain uncut, as a symbol that the khalsa lives in harmony with God by refusing to remove a part of the body given to him by God. It is the must important K. A khalsa who cuts his hair is considered a renegade.

Kangha (comb): This wooden comb, worn in the hair, is essential to cleanliness and grooming.

Kacch: This undergarment is worn by soldiers.

Kirpan: Traditionally, this was a sabre, but in modern dress, it is a dagger or small knife. It symbolizes courage, self-reliance and a readiness to defend the weak and oppressed.

Kara: This steel bracelet, worn on the right arm, symbolizes restraint from evil deeds.

Further, men wear turbans and women wear scarves for religious significance in covering the kesa (hair). The headdress is also a symbol of the Sikh's honour, pride and equality with all others.

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